Analysis Of A Hero’s Journey In Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting, a movie in which the janitor at MIT is the smartest person on campus. Will Hunting comes to the realization that he’s holding his own happiness back despite having support from others and a psychology prof. Carl Jung’s original idea is that each viewer can recognize different characters in the film. Carl Jung believed that every mind shared a collective unconscious memory. The Archetype concept is a twelve-step story structure, or the hero’s quest, that is used in Good Will Hunting.

First, we have the “ordinary life” of our hero. Will Hunting, our hero genius, is living in the “ordinary world”, where he spends most of his time getting into trouble with authorities. Will represents two archetypes, the hero and orphan archetypes (which create an emotional connection). Orphaned heroes are familiar to everyone. They appear in stories such as Harry Potter and Oliver Twist. When comparing Will to these stories, the common archetype of a hero is demonstrated by their ability to overcome obstacles in order achieve goals. Will is able to overcome his abusive childhood and the class system in order to achieve more than he expected.

Will is able to avoid prison and achieve the second goal, “a Call to Adventure”, when he encounters his herald. Will is mopping the floor when he solves a mathematical problem. This causes Professor Lambeau, who is the archetypal herald, to go and find Will. The herald character is the one who signals that a hero is about to undergo a change. It is evident when Lambeau sees Will being detained for assaulting an officer. Will does not go to jail, as long he keeps working with Lambeau.

Next is “refusal to call”. Will will work with Professor Lambeau on his math, but won’t go to therapy. As he uses wit to deter 5 therapists, it’s clear he doesn’t want the guidelines. Sean may be the one person who can help him.

The fourth step involves’meeting mentor figures’. These are usually older people who have more knowledge. Mentors guide heroes on their journeys and teach them how to take care of themselves. Sean Maguire, Will’s sympathetic therapist, fills this part in Good Will Hunting. Sean Maguire changes Will’s life completely.

The hero will leave their everyday world to embark on their adventure in the fifth stage, called “crossing over the threshold”. Will and Skylar meet at a bar near Harvard University. Will doesn’t call Skylar back after a wonderful date because he is terrified. Will’s story begins with Sean having a conversation about Will. He is crossing the threshold to discover that he must change something in himself.

In the sixth stage, which is called ‘tests’, the hero must face new challenges. Harry Potter is at this point when he becomes friendly with Ron, Hermione, Draco and then turns against him. The difference is that in Good Will Hunting the step six and step seven are blurred together. This is because in Harry Potter the step six and step seven are separated by a step called ‘approach of the inmost grotto’. Following this conflict, Will’s ‘inmost-cave’ or goal is now clearly defined. Chuckie tells Will that it would be a great insult if he was still alive in 20 years. Will has never been told the truth before. Chuckie becomes the archetype of an ally – a character which helps the protagonist on his journey and provides something that the hero is lacking. Chuckie, on the other hand, provides Will with courage and advise. Chuckie stands by Will through his trials and helps him get to the destination he desires. Will is inspired by him to take on a more adventurous life. He’s an ally.

Step eight is referred to as ‘the experience’. It is a painful ordeal that is experienced by a character. Simba’s guilt when his father died is a famous example. Will’s struggle is when he lets his fears take over and tells Skylar she doesn’t matter. Sean says, “It wasn’t your fault” after mentioning Will’s past abuse. This is step nine, the’reward’. Will cries when Sean tells him, “It’s not your fault”. Will’s mental state changes as this moment happens.

Will is now on the 10th step of ‘the road to recovery’. He gets back to living his life and starts going to the therapy.

This leads us to the two final steps of the journey,’resurrection and return with the elixir. The film’s final scene represents the 12th stage of the journey. In this step, the hero carries the object they are searching for. In The Matrix Neo reveals the truth and gives a message.

Good Will Hunting accurately depicts the twelve steps.


  • oscarcunningham

    Oscar Cunningham is a 41-year-old educational blogger and professor. He has been writing about education for over 10 years, and is known for his expertise on online learning and digital media. Cunningham is also a frequent speaker on these topics, and has given talks at a range of universities around the world. In his spare time, he also enjoys playing the violin and running.

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